"Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government." Thomas Jefferson

Scott Walker: Wisconsin's True Progressive

Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA Read Comments - 7
Publish Date: 
Thu, 06/07/2012


Last week after his criminal trial ended with a hung jury, John Edwards proclaimed hopefully, “I don’t think God is through with me,” as he planted the seeds for his comeback. Projecting the false modesty and manufactured authenticity that vaulted the one-term Senator toward the Presidency, Edwards personifies Graucho Marx’s maxim that “the secret to life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you've got it made."

In response to Edwards, I imagined a collective uproar: “Think Again, John -- the jig is up!” As Edwards exits stage left, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker takes center stage.  He, along with brave governors in New Jersey, Indiana, South Carolina, Louisiana, and possibly even New York, represent a new breed of leader emboldened to end public sector unions’ stranglehold on our governments and economy.

Putting aside Edwards’ despicable personal conduct, he is emblematic of the corrupt patronage system that Governor Scott Walker ended in Wisconsin -- the one that allows government unions to cement relationships with self-serving politicians, leaving taxpayers unrepresented and rendering many states insolvent.  By voting decisively to retain Walker (the only US governor to survive a recall), Cheeseheads declared the jig is finally up for this brand of special-interest cronyism and the politicians who perpetuate it – at least in Wisconsin.

The truth is, public-sector unions don’t serve a compelling social need since governments don’t exploit labor for profits. Furthermore, as Franklin Roosevelt cautioned, “the process of collective bargaining…. cannot be transplanted into the public service...[without risking] paralysis of government by those who have sworn to support it.” Realizing this, President Carter reduced collective-bargaining rights for federal employees by signing the Civil Service Reform Act.

It’s ironic that public sector unions met their match in Wisconsin, the birthplace of American progressivism and public sector unionism where roughly two-thirds of voters either are or are related to union members.  Now, progressive Wisconsin is proof that the crisis of the modern entitlement state being played out worldwide -- from the Eurozone to California -- doesn’t have to be a Greek tragedy.

In Wisconsin, even union sympathizers realize everyone is ill served when the government can't meet its obligations.  They know the promises politicians make far exceed our ability to pay and, watching Europe implode from the same disorder, realize there is only one choice -- reduced yet sustainable government or bankruptcy. Wisconsin voted for balance knowing the essential first step on the path to prosperity and opportunity is for governments to recover fiscal soundness. 

That was Walker’s pledge in 2010. Facing the fourth highest tax burden in the country and determined to reverse Wisconsin’s $3.6 billion deficit without raising taxes or firing workers, Walker’s reforms disallowed collective bargaining for public-employee unions (except police and firefighters).  No longer can unions negotiate their taxpayer-funded benefits with politicians they helped elect using mandatory dues. Additionally, Walker asked government employees to contribute modestly more to their health and retirement benefits. Even after these reforms, Wisconsin workers enjoy “a combined salary-benefits compensation premium of around 22 percent over private sector workers,” according to an American Enterprise Institute study released last month.

Though modest, the unions and their allies reacted ferociously to these reforms, like a mama bear defending her cub. They captured national attention with protests, runaway state senators, legal challenges and state senator recall elections. Despite their efforts, they couldn’t overcome the will of the people -- to keep the reforms.

That’s because Walker’s reforms are succeeding: The budget has a $150 million surplus; property taxes are lower; the unemployment rate is 6.8 percent (the lowest since 2008 and well below the national average); the private sector created 26,000 jobs in 2011; and savings realized by school districts have preserved jobs and educational programming. Most encouraging, according to a Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce survey in May, 73 percent of employers predicted moderate to good business growth and more than half plan to expand operations within two years – the highest rate in a decade.

No wonder one-third of union members voted for Walker, according to exit polls. Seeing union policies drain government finances, endanger vital government services, and undermine their own jobs and benefits, why would union members want to pay their dues? Now that they have the option not to, tens of thousands have opted out. Perhaps this is the best outcome of all, for civil society is healthier when government employees believe they’re on the same side as taxpayers.

As CS Lewis said, “We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”

Though it’s too late for Edwards, other self-proclaimed “progressives” must Think Again – good policy makes great politics.

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Ms. Sturm, Holy Smokes, a

Ms. Sturm,

Holy Smokes, a fellow Aspenite who is something other than a reactionary, politically correct, Lib/Prog! You must sometimes feel, as I do, that you are in enemy-occupied territory.

Speaking of which, I was especially intrigued by your reference to C.S. Lewis, and puzzled how you snuck it past the Aspen Times (perhaps they'd never heard of him?).

Keep up the good work!

“Melanie, you nailed it

“Melanie, you nailed it again! Although I am a conservative by nature and learned experience, I don’t fit into either political party although I see much more common sense and American values represented by the Republicans. I do take issue though on some of their actions and inactions.

I do believe and support the existence of “private unions” although they are prone to abuse as well and can be job killers. Even though I have been a voluntary union dues paying member for over 30 years (because I take financial responsibility for representation) I disagree with almost all of my union’s political postures and I make that known. That can make me unpopular but so be it. I believe they should support whoever creates more jobs and ensure decent employee treatment. The Democrats are antithesis to job creation. Business creates jobs! As FDR and George Meany both were adamantly opposed to “Public Employee Unions”, one has to scratch his or her head as to why JFK, by executive order, allowed and supported their creation. The answer is: Political patronage and cronyism. And I liked JFK. He was more conservative in many ways than any democrat and most republicans today. His closest comparison? - Ronald Reagan.

Public Employee Unions corrupt easily corruptible politicians and in the process they do this at the detriment of our children and their academic futures and bankrupt our communities. The positive outcome in Wisconsin has done much to enable hope once again to rise in my mind and heart that perhaps the American Citizen is waking up and that sanity and common sense will once again prosper along with our blessed nation. That and ensuring that we empower and treat the most vulnerable with compassion. Guess who (political types) gives the most to charity? Phony compassion is more dangerous than none at all. We are extremely fortunate to be able to live in this country and my own life experiences have driven that home dramatically.

Thanks again Melanie for another fine article and for your illuminating voice in what sometimes seems a vacuum of silly carelessness, thoughtlessness and an age of intellectual darkness.”

Why are we talking about

Why are we talking about Edwards? That sleaze bag was toast four years ago. Now, if you’re wanting to take an easy shot at the left as he’s exiting, I understand. I do like the Marx quote though.

Congrats on the Wisconsin win. That was a blowout. The fallout should be interesting.

Here’s something to keep you up at night.

In the United States, 88 percent of public employees are covered by a defined benefit pension plan.[7]

Time for a clawback?

God is definitely not through

God is definitely not through with John Edwards --- there is a special place in Hell reserved for him.

Unions have their place, but they begin and end with protecting workers rights, not in cronyism and political activism.

I enjoy your thoughts,

Melanie, very refreshing to

Melanie, very refreshing to read your article based on the facts, not partisan talking points. Get ready for the backlash from our fellow citizens who feel we owe them.

I just spent a few days in Wisconsin and outside of Madison or Madtown (which should be on another planet), everyone gets it. Keep up the good work. There is a lot of good material coming your way as the Obama machine blows a tire. From a local taxpayer since 1971.

Scott Walker is a Republican

Scott Walker is a Republican leader who showed 49 other state governors how to balance budgets without firing workers or raising taxes,

Conservative values work whenever they are put into practice.

Great one again. C.S. Lewis

Great one again. C.S. Lewis is one of my favorites.

I think the other telling fact out of all of this is the precipitous drop in union enrollment once the dues were not automatically deducted from the worker's paychecks.

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